Of 8 million hectares of agricultural land in Madagascar, only between 20 and 30% are utilized. A paradox in a country where almost half of the forest has disappeared in 60 years. To help farmers improve soil fertility, a team of agricultural scientists take and analyze samples of their soils.
Ambatolampy 130 kilometers from Malagasy capital. On her 9 acres of land, Mamy has grown rice and potatoes for 40 years. Very profitable work for this farmer who earns about 320,000 CFA francs a month, ten times the minimum wage in Madagascar. But in recent months production has decreased.
“If I grow 200 kilos of potato seeds I should get 5 to 6 tonnes of potatoes, but today my goal has not been achieved. We only achieved what we wanted to achieve,” says farmer Mamy Andriamahaly.
Mamy called on a team of agricultural experts, who came to collect their soil to analyze it. In Madagascar, 80% of the cultivated land is unused. This corresponds to 8 million hectares of land. A paradox, in a country where 45% of the forest has disappeared. But knowing the components of the earth would make it more fertile.
“The ground is like a human, it has to eat, breathe. And we have to know the elements that are missing to make it better,” explains Mamy Nantenaina Ranaivoarison, agricultural scientist.
The Agronomist Group is back in Antananarivo, with Mamy’s soil test. It is here, at the Research, Agricultural and Livestock Center, that all samples taken from 100,000 ha of land are stored. Drying, weighing, analysis, Mamy waited a month before he got his results. The earth’s lack of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Expensive, medians, … Many challenges
“We need to add dolomite, a limestone change that provides magnesium and calcium. In addition, it does not cost much, regrets Donnat Alpha Maminirina, agricultural scientist.
Satisfied with the results, Mamy leaves the laboratory full of hope. “In the past, even though I worked a lot, it was difficult to produce because I didn’t know what my soil was like. But after getting these results, I hope to see more success in the future,” Mamy Andrimahaly dreams.
Few are the farmers who, like Mamy, analyze their countries. The operation is expensive: between 5,000 and 38,000 CFA francs. According to the researchers, the lack of fuel and equipment complicates their work.
“We don’t have chemical reagents, it’s expensive and besides, we don’t manufacture them in Madagascar, we have to order them. In addition, the price of materials is high. For example, these are broken instruments, you can’t use them and you don’t know when they will be repaired or replaced, says Donnat Alpha Maminirina.
Millions of land samples remain. But convincing farmers to analyze their soils is a major challenge. The distrust is that 60% of farmers are linked to traditional culture such as slashing and burning cultivation.